VOICE – THE NEXT EVOLUTION IN SEARCH by Oliver Corbishley, Digital Executive

A key aspect of the digital age is the constant technological evolution that changes the landscape. Search is no different, with the evolution from basic query search to adaptive, intelligent search that accompanies us everywhere.

We’re moving from the handheld mobile life to a new frontier with Voice search playing a growing role in our lives. With devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home seeing adoption rates similar  to early-era smartphones, voice search usage is expanding rapidly. 55% of teens and 40% of adults in the USA already use voice search daily (Google) and 50% of all searches are expected to come from voice by 2020 (ComScore).

Consumer satisfaction with Smart Speaker devices is high, with 65% of owners not wanting to go back to life without their devices and 42% considering them “essential” (Edison). People are also surprisingly willing to purchase products through their smart speakers, with 57% having made a purchase via their smart speaker and 35% having made a purchase of over $100.

Just Eat recently ran a voucher promotion via Alexa, encouraging users to download the Just Eat Alexa skill and order via their Echo speaker by offering a discount voucher. Though outside channels are currently required to spread awareness of this promotion it shows an early indication of how Brands can adapt to voice search technology.

Despite speculation, Amazon denies plans to add advertising to Alexa devices and we still don’t have indications from either Amazon or Google of how advertising will manifest on their Smart Speakers. One possible path would see advertisers pay for higher placement in search results, similar to how paid search works on Google. This path has issues for Amazon who want to see the Echo and Alexa driving product sales through their store. The fear is that replacing smart recommendations and past purchases with paid ads could annoy consumers and turn them off from their Smart Speaker

Businesses need to be thinking about how customers’ new relationship with voice search will impact on their digital strategies. While playing music and checking the weather are the most common regular uses for voice search, 52% use their Smart Speakers to ask general questions. With 75% of US households projected to have a Smart Speaker by 2020, Brands need to be prepared for a world were voice is the default medium for search.

STOP FUNDING HATE & CAMPAIGN PLANNING by Martin Wilson, Account Manager

The Stop Funding Hate campaign has recently found itself where it wants to be, in the media spotlight.  Paperchase became one of the highest profile advertisers to react to campaign pressure and apologise for a recent promotion (see here).  While Pizza Hut have also now apologised over a free pizza promotion in The Sun.

Leaving aside personal views for the moment, Stop Funding Hate raises some interesting points for media planners. We plan as effectively as we can taking all sorts of data into consideration as we plot and strategise ways to achieve our client’s objectives.   What weight should we give to social media pressure?

Stop Funding Hate exists to persuade advertisers to do what their name suggests by stopping companies spending their advertising dollar with publishers who they consider to be ‘using fear and division to spread hate’, namely the Daily Mail, Daily Express and The Sun. They do so by encouraging consumers to politely communicate their distaste towards these advertisers, particularly through social media channels.

As media planners it’s vital that we stay entirely neutral when considering what’s best for our clients. Personal politics or beliefs shouldn’t come into the equation. If it so happens that one of the above mentioned publications reaches the ideal audience then we can’t discount it based on our own individual ideals. A single ad insertion in The Sun, Mail and Express reaches over 7 million adults. However, we also have a responsibility to be fully aware of external factors such as Stop Funding Hate. We should explain the potential consequences of our advertising decisions to the client who may wish to avoid any controversy, or may have their own views on those publishers.

Interestingly Paperchase has seen a 6% brand awareness spike since this story went public, very useful pre-Christmas! How cynical would we have to be to consider a major campaign in the Daily Mail only to very publicly cancel it and apologise to customers for a terrible lapse of judgement? Far more cynical than me, I can guarantee that.

MORE OF THE SAME MEANS NO CHRISTMAS CHEER for Kenneth McFarlane, Account Director

Apparently all it takes to develop a reputation as a Grinch or Scrooge around this time of year is to announce your disapproval of Will Ferrell’s “Elf” movie.

But I might not have helped my case by negatively critiquing every Christmas advert that has been released this year.

But this is not based on some anti-festive sentiment.  It’s based on years of repetition from advertisers who have gotten lazy with their planning.

Not singling John Lewis out, but this year Moz the Monster is the worst offender; a complicated, confused narrative to deliver yet another must-have Christmas cuddly toy – complete with “the world’s first farting and snoring window display” in London.

I don’t get it – and I’m not the only one.  You don’t have to exist in our media bubble to express confusion over the latest million-pound Christmas investment, or a host of other brands’ imitations.

And imitations are exactly what they are.  What John Lewis started superbly a decade ago was sweet, heartfelt and crucially it was different.  Moreover, it seemed very John Lewis.  But with every year came a new attempt to make the nation cry and inevitably a law of diminishing returns.  And every year brought more brands jumping on the bandwagon, jealous of how John Lewis had come to ‘own’ Christmas advertising.  Some of them even did it better, but the clutter that comes from multiple mini-movies is too much now.

Have a look at the big hitters’ efforts this year – what’s their point of differentiation?  Attribution is more and more difficult.  Which one is Paddington in, again?  Is he John Lewis or Debenhams?  Ewan McGregor shops in M&S I think?

Media planners should be striving to deliver innovation with every campaign but it seems a few of the bigger brands have missed the memo.

A big, emotional TV campaign is the same answer to the same question posed a decade ago.  But TV no longer offers as many opportunities for huge audiences and live viewing has dropped 14% since 2010.  And while digital media now plays a huge part in these campaigns, the emotional impact is just not the same.  It’s also over all too quickly as audiences seek them out on day #1.

I’m not saying TV’s the wrong answer – but when everyone else is doing the same thing, it becomes wallpaper.  And if you’re going to do TV, then try something different!  Have a look at Sainsbury’s this year and how they are standing out by steering clear of overly produced story-led ads.

Or what about a different lead medium entirely?  The same kind of investment in out of home could dominate the channel with cool formats, dressing cities with Christmas cheer.

It’s time for John Lewis and others to realise they’re all going down the same route.  Do something different next year and they’ll reap the rewards.  That’s what I’ll be asking Santa for at least…

CAN THE BANNER AD BE RESUSCITATED? by Simon Watson, Head of Digital

Having famously complained: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is, I don’t know which half”, it would be interesting to see what John Wanamaker made of the banner landscape in 2017.

In 2017, banner viewability (ads seen by a person) in the UK is just 52% – the lowest in the western world.

Given the attribution and research tools available, ad viewability could and should be 100%. So why isn’t it?

The problem lies in “performance” campaigns – those aimed at driving an acquisition.

Click based conversions are almost non-existent meaning campaigns are reliant on post-view conversions – a banner is served and a user later finds their way to site and converts.  But if impressions are never seen,  they haven’t influenced the user and they would have converted regardless?  It’s like attributing a conversion to a press ad that appears on page 42 of a 40 page newspaper. Continue reading “CAN THE BANNER AD BE RESUSCITATED? by Simon Watson, Head of Digital”


In 2006, the ‘Me Too’ movement was created by Tarana Burke, a Brooklyn-native activist who sought to ‘empower through empathy’. The campaign focused on women of colour, particularly from underprivileged communities, who had previously experienced sexual abuse.

The campaign caught fire in October this year when actress Alyssa Milano wrote this Tweet in reaction to the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment allegations:

The effect was unmissable and brought a behind-closed-doors topic firmly into the public domain. It seems naive to say the results were shocking, yet scrolling through my own newsfeed, I was struck by how often I read: ‘me too’. Continue reading “SOCIAL MEDIA AND SEXUAL HARASSMENT by Ruth Kroch, Media Assistant”